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Our History

In her address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association's (NAWSA) 50th convention in St. Louis, Missouri, President Carrie Chapman Catt proposed the creation of a "league of women voters to finish the fight and aid in the reconstruction of the nation." Women Voters was formed within the NAWSA, composed of the organizations in the states where suffrage had already been attained. The next year, on February 14, 1920 - six months before the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified - the League was formally organized in Chicago as the national League of Women Voters. Catt described the purpose of the new organization:

"The League of Women Voters is not to dissolve any present organization but to unite all existing organizations of women who believe in its principles. It is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage. Are the women of the United States big enough to see their opportunity?"

Maud Wood Park became the first national president of the League and thus the first League leader to rise to the challenge. She had steered the women's suffrage amendment through Congress in the last two years before ratification and liked nothing better than legislative work. From the very beginning, however, it was apparent that the legislative goals of the League were not exclusively focused on women's issues and that citizen education aimed at all of the electorate was in order.

Since its inception, the League has helped millions of women and men become informed participants in government. In fact, the first league convention voted 69 separate items as statements of principle and recommendations for legislation. Among them were protection for women and children, right of working women, food supply and demand, social hygiene, the legal status of women, and American citizenship.The League's first major national legislative success was the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act providing federal aid for maternal and child care programs. In the 1930's, League members worked successfully for enactment of the Social Security and Food and Drug Acts. Due at least in part to League efforts, legislation passed in 1938 and 1940 removed hundreds of federal jobs from the spoils system and placed them under Civil Service.

During the postwar period, the League helped lead the effort to establish the United Nations and to ensure U.S. Participation. The League was one of the first organizations in the country officially recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization; it still maintains official observer status today.

See the History section of the League of Women Voters of the US website.

History of Our Local League Over the Decades

Our Local History

Read about the history of our local league in articles researched and written for the 100th Anniversary Year.

The decade of the Roaring 1920s was one of economic growth and social change. People were more mobile and had more money to spend. Communications, transportation, and consumerism grew tremendously. Millions of women went to work, and populations shifted from farms to towns and cities. US foreign policy was dominated by isolationism, the anti-Communist red scare, and immigration quotas, and conflicts grew between conservative and progressive viewpoints.  And of course, the League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago, one hundred years ago today, on February 14, 1920. More...

1930's and 1940's
With the prosperity of the Roaring 20’s now in the past and the effects of the Great Depression as well as WWII now becoming a fact of life, the administration and work of the League of Women Voters needed to change. The League’s budget was cut along with administration personnel. Due mostly to gas rationing affiliates were encouraged to meet in small, neighborhood groups to study issues. Thus grassroots activity was firmly institutionalized as way of assessing concerns, studying and strategizing. More....

1950's and 1960's
From 1966-1969 there were no known presidents or league activities on record. The lack of League activities during the late 1960s remains a mystery. Was the lapse in leadership due to events surrounding the Vietnam War or civil rights movement? Was it due to more women entering the workforce? Was it caused by a cultural shift or was it caused by some local event? More...

1970's, 1980's, and 1990's
Actually, the League of the 1970s got started in late 1969. The state League reached out to some women in the area and asked if they were interested in giving the South Bend League a re-start. The first formal meeting was held on Dec. 15, 1969, with Greta Betchov as acting president of a (Member) Unit At Large, which was a way to get started and then transition to status as a “provisional League.” Greta, by the way, was a naturalized citizen, having emigrated from Berne, Switzerland, where women did not win the right to vote in federal elections until 1971. More...

Year 2000 and Beyond 
In 2006-2007, we really spread our wings, too, working with so many other organizations to hold election debates and forums, including the Real Estate Investors Association, the American Association of University Women, the Women’s Alliance, the Healthy Communities Initiative, the American Democracy Project and the Political Science Club of IUSB. But part of the reason for these partnerships was because our own membership numbers, and thus our own woman power, continued to decrease.  More...

List of League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area Presidents since 1920.